Ex-Minnesota elevator manager pleads guilty in swindle

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former manager of a western Minnesota grain elevator pleaded guilty Thursday in a swindle that cost his employer millions of dollars so he could pay for hunting safaris, taxidermy services and real estate.
Jerry Hennessey, 56, of Dalton pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of mail fraud and tax evasion, the Star Tribune reported . Sentencing is set for June 13.
Hennessey, a nearly 30-year employee, was accused in a 15-year scheme to defraud the Ashby Farmers’ Co-Operative Elevator Co. in Ashby, Minnesota. Prosecutors say he used the money to pay for exotic hunting trips, taxidermy, real estate and credit card debt.
Hennessey obtained a line of credit of about $7 million for the co-op by misrepresenting the amount of grain it had in storage. He then used that account to cover money he stole from his employer, which federal prosecutors say totaled about $5.3 million.
Hennessey also admitted that he had not reported $3.5 million of that income between 2011 and 2017, resulting in a loss of $1.2 million in revenue to the IRS and $400,000 to the Minnesota Department of Revenue. He will be required to pay restitution to the victims for the money he stole and their related losses, as well as the tax losses.
Hennessey reserved the right to object to the total amount of restitution after reviewing more than 16,000 pages of records that the government collected in its investigation. Any final adjustment is not expected to affect the plea agreement, Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Kokkinen said.
Hennessey had no comment after the hearing.
Hennessey’s attorney, Thomas Kelly, said his client was trying to “recover assets that might have been on his property” before the scheme became public so those assets can help pay restitution. Kelly said Hennessey’s Dalton home, on about 90 acres of land, also is on the market for nearly $800,000.
Properties also listed on forfeiture documents filed by the government include 400 acres with a cabin in Brook Park, Minnesota, and an 80-acre parcel in Eagle Lake Township, Minnesota, that Hennessey said is in foreclosure proceedings and which he described as “pasture hunting land.”
A regular customer of big-game guides, Hennessey paid $50,000 or more for hunting safaris in Africa, New Zealand and Alaska. He also spent money to have his trophies mounted and built a barn-sized addition to display them at his home outside Ashby, about 146 miles (235 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis.
In September, the co-op contacted authorities about payments Hennessey made to himself or for his personal expenses. When the co-op asked to meet with Hennessey, he didn’t show up and instead met a friend who drove him to Des Moines, Iowa. He turned himself in after being missing for nearly three months.
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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com